Thursday 13 December 2018

Waking Hours: with Irish TV presenter Anna Nolan

Anna Nolan, 43, is a television presenter and a development executive with an independent television company. From Rialto, Dublin, she lives alone in Ranelagh

Anna Nolan, 43, is a television presenter and a development executive with an independent television company
Anna Nolan, 43, is a television presenter and a development executive with an independent television company

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

On a good day, if I'm going to the gym, I'm up at seven o'clock. I'm quite a morning person and I tend to spring up. I'm lucky that I live extremely close to work, which is Coco Television. I used to live off the South Circular Road, but I've moved to Ranelagh recently.

There's nobody in the house with me. I make coffee and then I either put on the television – Ireland AM – or listen to the radio; Radio One. After that, I check all the news websites – Sky, RTE, Independent, Times, and then, if I've a bit of time on my hands, I'll check the Mail Online for the photos. They are tabloid photos for grown-ups who want to be teenagers. I look at what Kim Kardashian is wearing and then I'll get on with my day.

At the gym, I alternate my training. It's either 40 minutes' weight training or a 40-minute run. It's as simple as that, and the mornings that I don't want to go, I tell myself that I don't have to do anything when I get there, but I just have to get there. And, of course, once I'm there, I'll train.

I'm not with a personal trainer. It's just me on my own. Now I feel like I have more energy and I sleep better. Exercise clears my head. A year and a half ago, I was a plump little thing, but my weight has never really bothered me. I can go up and down, and I don't care that much.

All that changed last year, when I was presenting The Great Irish Bake Off for Sideline Productions on TV3. It inspired me to get my act together and get the weight down a bit. This year, we're back with the show, so I'm trying to lose a little bit more. People say that the camera adds pounds, and it does – it adds four stone to me and 10 pounds to everyone else. But I've never fully understood that line, because it doesn't make anything else look bigger in the shot, like couches, houses or ovens.

The Great Irish Bake Off is a competition to find the best amateur baker in the land. Twelve people are taken away to a beautiful marquee and, over a series of eight weeks, they have to bake their socks off. I think that baking has become very popular because people want to go back to creating their own food. Last year, I did quite a bit of baking before the show, just to get into the mindset. It was so relaxing, but I also found out that I was an appalling baker, so it's back to the local shop for my chocolate eclairs.

Most of the people on the show have been baking for their whole lives, and their recipes have been handed down to them from their parents or grandparents.

Halfway through, the smell of baking is unbelievable and I end up tasting a lot of stuff. The other week, we were filming bread-making, and I said to one of the bakers that we have been fed this line that bread is a deadly sin, and that we should stay away from yeast and carbs, as if they are going to kill us.

If you eat everything in moderation, it's fine. None of the bakers on the show are overweight, and all of them eat their produce.

If it's a day filming, I could be working into the evening. It's a nice change for me because, before this show, I hadn't done any presenting for almost six years. Up until then, I had worked on The Afternoon Show and Would You Believe? and then the presenting work just dried up. I thought, 'I'm not going to hang around for years and be drip-fed gigs'.

So I got my arse into gear and learned the other side of television. Philip Kampff, an independent producer, took a chance on me and let me produce Operation Transformation. I've been producing for the last few years.

I suppose I've had the craziest pathway into television; starting out from Rialto, where I was born, joining a convent and staying for two and a half years; leaving that, living in Edinburgh and then becoming a contestant on Big Brother – where I spent 63 days with cameras watching our every move for 24 hours.

Even though it sounds bizarre when I describe it, it was a good experience. Also, I didn't have to announce to anybody that I was gay, because I was very open about my sexuality on Big Brother. I didn't have to come out any more because I did it on national television. That made it easier for me. I've never felt any discrimination against me because of my sexuality. I think that's because I live in Dublin and I work in a creative industry, where anything goes. If I was a teacher in a small town in the west of Ireland, it might be a different story.

I work for Coco Television production company, and they have just taken me on full time as head of development. My job is to come up with ideas for shows. I'm always trying to think of something different.

My main inspiration for this is the people who are close to me. I'm always asking them what brings humour or drama into their lives.

My working day in the office is quite varied – full of meetings or research. I'm not a great finisher of things, and so the development work is perfect for me. I start off ideas, get them going, and then I'm very happy to hand them over to other people.

I had a panic attack when I was made full time by the company recently. I know it's a great opportunity, and very few people are being made full time, but I suddenly thought, "I am used to flitting around, going from one thing to another."

When I didn't have stability, I craved it; and now that I have it, I'm thinking, 'What about my freedom?' But I think, at the age of 43, I really need to settle down. The panic attacks have subsided.

I'm incredibly lazy in the evenings. Because I chat to so many people during the day for meetings, I come home and watch three House of Cards on Netflix.

I have a glass of wine and then close down. I like to go to bed early – around 10.30. Then I read all the news websites again and have a final look at what Kim Kardashian is wearing at the end of the day. I go to sleep in about four minutes. There is very little that will keep me awake at night.

'The Great Irish Bake Off' airs on Wednesday, May 21, at 9pm on TV3

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